It’s easy to see why Jordan is a popular family destination. The wedge of land surrounded by Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian territories, with a small slice of coastline at the north-eastern tip of the Red Sea, is one big family playground. There are plenty of things to do in Jordan for kids, including riding camels in the desert and exploring Crusader castles.
Lawrence of Arabia’s desert to Indiana Jones’ Petra, Jordan is a natural playground. With plenty of fun in the sun, sand and mud, it’s a great spot for a family vacation. Here are some things to do in Jordan for kids.
Things to do in Jordan for kids
1- Explore Wadi Rum
The 4WD stops at the foot of the towering sand dune. A family alights.
The landscape around them is stunning, with towering rocky monoliths that rise from the desert floor.
Their Bedouin guide reminds them that this vast ochre landscape in southern Jordan is where T.E. Lawrence joined the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks.
They gaze up at the dune in awe before beginning their uphill trek. Granules of orangey-pink sand oozes into their sneakers with each step they take.
Suddenly, there’s a giggle from somewhere above.
A young girl comes running down the soft sand, stirring up puffs of dust behind her. She’s followed by a couple of teenagers who sprint down the dune screaming excitedly.
Families can clamber among ruins and get muddy on the shores of the Dead Sea.
The country’s compact size and excellent roads makes it easy to travel with children. And hiring a private vehicle with a driver is affordable.
Running down sand dunes is high on the list of must-do family activities at Wadi Rum. But there’s plenty more things to do in Jordan in the desert.
The canyons and rock bridges are intriguing to explore. Lawrence’s Spring was once a waterhole for Bedouin caravans. And older children will have fun scrambling up the rocky hill.
There’s a Bedouin tent at the foot of the hill where the young ones can play in the shade. Adults can rest cross-legged on comfortable Arabian-style cushions sipping mint tea.
After touring the desert in an open-top 4WD, or on the back of a camel, dinner around the campfire is followed by singing, dancing and a night’s rest in a cosy Bedouin goat hair tent. Staying in a Bedouin camp is a family bonding experience and one of the more memorable things to do in Jordan.
2- Float in the Dead Sea
Staying at a Dead Sea resort is as much fun as sleeping under the stars. Despite its name, the Dead Sea is actually a lake 400m below sea level with the highest salt concentration in the world.
International resorts on the lake that cater for families by offering babysitting services, kids’ clubs and children’s pools include Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa, Kempinski Hotel Ishtar and Movenpick Resort & Spa where the Dana Children’s Activity Centre has programmes for children such as swimming, tennis and beach volleyball.
A Dead Sea salt scrub and mud wrap in Zara Spa is a blissful way to wind down and the mud is known for its healing qualities. But there’s fun in the mud for the whole family down by the lake, where everyone slathers mud over their arms, legs, bodies and faces.
They look like commandoes in bikinis and board shorts, staring across the Dead Sea towards the West Bank, a territory that has been fought over by the Palestine and Israel for half of the last century.
The buoyancy of the water makes it safe for non-swimmers and anyone who gets into the Dead Sea will bob up and down like a cork.
3- Discover Petra
Depending on the children’s ages, a good thing to do before going to Jordan is to watch “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Ben Hur”.
Of all Jordan’s treasures, Petra Archaeological Park is the jewel in the crown.
Petra’s ruins have been World Heritage-listed since 1985 and voted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
Seeing Petra for the first time is a wondrous experience for most, no matter what age.
There’s a 1.2km walk through the Siq, a gorge that leads to the much-photographed Treasury (Al Khazneh).
Al Khazneh is instantly recognisable as the temple in the “Canyon of the Crescent Moon” where Indiana Jones finally finds the Holy Grail, only, it’s much more impressive in real life.
With 800 temples, tombs, caves, obelisks and columns carved by the Nabataeans 2000 years ago, Petra is a place where children can let their imaginations run wild and have fun pretending to be Indy while exploring the surrounds.
There’s a lot of walking involved but, fortunately, there are Bedouins everywhere offering camel and donkey rides for a few dollars. Riding a camel in Petra is one of the best things to do in Jordan for familiies.
The Monastery (Al Deir) and the High Place of Sacrifice (Al Madbah) are nestled high in the hills. An energetic teenager could manage the hike to these viewpoints or five dinar (about $7) will buy a donkey ride to the top. But there’s also plenty to see without scaling Petra’s heights.
4- Karak Castle
Jordan is a destination that calls to me loudly, tugging at me to bond with the land.
As I travel through the country, visiting a tapestry of ancient ruins, biblical sites and desert landscapes, the feeling of déjà vu is like a tide that ebbs and flows.
It’s a strange sensation of a familiarity with names, places and things.
Even though I haven’t been here before, I feel like I know it well.Perhaps the déjà vu is triggered by distant memories of Sunday school lessons or more recent scenes from Hollywood movies.
Nevertheless, Jordan is a country of spiritual landscapes, where prophets performed miracles, where some of the world’s oldest churches have been unearthed and where pilgrims journeyed through the desert from Jerusalem.
About half-way between Petra and the capital, Amman, leave Indiana Jones behind and enter Orlando Bloom’s “Kingdom of Heaven”.
Although Karak Castle itself was not used during filming, the movie shows scenes based in and around the castle.
The 12th-century Crusader castle sits on a hill above Karak and has dungeons and tunnels worth exploring.
5- Explore the Roman Ruins of Jerash
A one-hour drive to the north of Amman is the Roman city of Jerash. General Pompey conquered Jerash in 63 BC, making it one of the 10 great Roman cities of the Decapolis, the federation of key Roman cities.
The ruins are fun to explore and children will love the twice-daily shows that conjure scenes from Ben Hur.
Sword-toting legionnaires with helmets javelins march through the city; gladiators fight to the death; and chariots thunder around the hippodrome.
Visiting Jerash, the Dead Sea, Petra and Wadi Rum leaves no doubt that Jordan offers a captivating holiday for families. Don’t be surprised if Jordan appeals to the child in you.
A short drive to Madaba brings me to the Greek Orthodox Church of St George. The church houses a 6th-century floor mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
The map covers a section of the church’s floor and is the oldest known map of the area.
Madaba is called the “City of Mosaics” because of the hundreds of mosaics dating back to the 5th to the 7th centuries scattered through Madaba’s churches and homes.
Fortunately, the craft is being kept alive at the Madaba Institute for Mosaic Art and Restoration, which is a government funded operation that trains artisans in the art of making, repairing and restoring mosaics.
As you can see there are plenty of fun family things to do in Jordan while travelling with kids. Want to know more? See photos of the Jordan landscape